Economic Survey Shows Importance of Boat-based Fishing in the Mariana Archipelago

In 2011, PIFSC Economist Justin Hospital, in collaboration with the Pacific Islands Fisheries Group (PIFG), completed a cost-earnings survey to better understand the economic, social, and cultural importance of boat-based fishing across the Mariana archipelago (Guam and Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands). Data were collected from surveys of 260 fishermen, including some of the first boat-based fisheries data to come from the islands of Tinian and Rota.

A brochure with preliminary results was developed. It provides valuable insights to characterize boat-based fishing across the Mariana Archipelago. Researchers confirmed the strong sociocultural role of fishing in this region. Most pelagic fishermen (81% of them), bottomfish fishermen (84%) and reef fishermen (89%) consider the fish they catch to be an important source of food for their family. Consistent with this result, on average only a portion of catch (27%) was sold, whereas the majority of fish was either given away to family and friends (31%), consumed at home (30%), or caught for fiestas and other community events (7%).

Whereas 65% of responding fishermen reported selling fish in the past 12 months, only 24% considered themselves to be a commercial fisherman, while 40% (the largest group) described themselves as subsistence fishermen. Additionally, 38% described themselves as fitting into more than one fisherman classification category, emphasizing the diverse motivations for fishing in the region.

The rising costs of fishing, changing weather and climate were cited as primary reasons that have made fishing more difficult in the region in recent years. Despite such challenges, most fishermen believed that more people will be involved in fishing in the near future, due to the cultural importance of fishing and the poor economy.

A full report of survey findings in currently under development and should be published by the end of 2012.